The term "founding fathers" refers to the group of men who led the American Revolution and attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that led to the establishment of the American system of government that endures through this day. Founding fathers are those individuals credited with creating a nation. In the case of the United States, the founding fathers are divided into those who were present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence and those who signed the Constitution. Warren G. Harding was the first person to uses the term "Founding Fathers" in 1916.
In 1775, rebellion broke out in the American colonies. Active fighting between the colonies and Great Britain had been waged for over a year when the Second Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. Other notable signers included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Samuel Adams.
Following the War of Independence, the system of government adopted by the new nation proved ineffective. In the summer of 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention adopted the document that still governs the United States. Notable signers included:
- George Washington
- James Madison
- Alexander Hamilton
- Benjamin Franklin
- John Adams
- John Hancock
- Samuel Adams
Many of these individuals also played prominent roles in the first administrations of the new nation, establishing precedent and guiding the nation for its first half century.